A British Royal Marine has just successfully run five marathons in five days — but not as an athletic challenge or a way to test his strength. Mike Francis ran over 100 miles in hopes of raising money for his younger sister’s metastatic breast cancer treatment.
Justine Jianikos is just 30 years old, and has three young daughters. When she first noticed odd symptoms in March of 2020, she visited her general practitioner who took no further action, assuring her there was nothing to worry about. A few months later in May, Justine returned when she found a lump in her breast. She was referred to a specialist and was told that the lump was benign fatty tissue, and no further scans or biopsies were conducted.
Then in September of that same month, Justine found a second lump near her armpit and once again visited her doctor. She was left to wait over three months for another referral. Finally, four days before Christmas of 2020, Justine’s biopsy revealed she had stage four triple negative breast cancer. It has spread to her spine and lymph nodes, and has been deemed “incurable.”
“I’m angry, I’m upset, I’m shocked, I’m dumbfounded,” Justine told WalesOnline. “I’m feeling every emotion there is to feel. I still have to wake up every morning with a smile on my face to make my children breakfast because my children need me.”
Although Justine feels that the medical system has failed her, her friends and family immediately sprung into action to help in any way they could. Justine began chemotherapy treatment in January of 2021, but she and her oncologist are actively searching for additional, alternative ways to help prolong her life. However, these treatments are typically not available by the NHS and can become quite pricey. One treatment option the family is considering would cost £20,000, and an additional medication Justine would like to try costs £4,000 for one month’s supply.
That’s when big brother Mike stepped in. Although Mike is a Marine, he had never run a marathon before. With time against them, he and his two friends, Rhy Richards and Jonny Hibbins, had only eight weeks to train for the event. “I just do three to four runs a week to keep myself ticking over,” Mike explained, “so I had to train for it and dig deep as anyone would who runs marathons.”
The first marathon of the challenge was on April 14, and Mike and his friends crossed the finish line of the fifth and final race on that following Sunday. “We were hitting the wall at the same time, mile 20 to 22, and we nicknamed that death ally, because when we were running this section, all three of us would just go quiet,” Mike continued. “But it was nothing compared to the pain Justine is going through.”
Mike and his friends’ tireless efforts were not in vain. So far, the trio has raised more than £35,000. “I knew I had to do something that was really out there, to raise the money we need as the treatment is so expensive, hence why we did such a mammoth challenge and people have been amazing.”
In addition to the incredible amount raised by Mike and the other marathon runners, one of Justine’s close friends started a GoFundMe campaign. Within the first day, the site had raised £9,000 in donations and currently sits with over £50,000. “I’m blow away and absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of support already,” Justine continued. “There’s been just an outpouring of love and support from so many different types of people who I know. That’s their hard-earned money. They’ve worked for that money and they are willing to part with that to help me and my family. It’s overwhelming and I can’t thank them enough.”
If you’d like to help other patients like Justine who are fighting hard against breast cancer, consider donating this comfort pack. Remember you can click every day to help fund mammograms for those in need!